US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, along with foreign ministers of Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom on Saturday (local time) expressed serious concern on the mass arrests of 55 politicians and activists in Hong Kong, and called on Chinese authorities to respect the legal rights and freedoms of people in the region.
In a joint statement, the four officials said: "We, the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, and the United States Secretary of State, underscore our serious concern at the mass arrests of 55 politicians and activists in Hong Kong for subversion under the National Security Law."
They further stated that the draconian national security law implemented in Hong Kong on July 1 last year is a clear breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and undermines the 'One Country, Two Systems' framework, adding that the legislation has curtailed the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, and is being used to eliminate dissent and opposing political views.
"We call on the Hong Kong and Chinese central authorities to respect the legally guaranteed rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong without fear of arrest and detention. It is crucial that the postponed Legislative Council elections in September proceed in a fair way that includes candidates representing a range of political opinions," read the joint statement.
Over 50 opposition lawmakers and activists were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of violating the authoritarian national security law, for their part in a primary election run-off last July.
Among the arrested were former lawmakers James To Kun-sun, Lam Cheuk-ting, Andrew Wan Siu-kin, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu and Wu Chi-wai, as well as pollster Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, who helped organise the event, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
On Wednesday, Pompeo had slammed Beijing over the arrests by calling it an outrage and a reminder of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) contempt for its own people. He further said that Washington will consider sanctions and other restrictions on any and all individuals and entities involved in executing this assault on Hong Kong people.
According to the authoritarian security law, a principal offender convicted of subversion faces imprisonment of 10 years to life, while an "active participant" can be sentenced to between three and 10 years' jail, while a minor can face a fixed term of not more than three years' imprisonment or short-term detention or restriction.